Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Last two Days in California

Friday's plan was to attempt to find an obvious Californian specialty; Californian Condor. So from our overnight hotel in Bakersfield we aimed for Bitter Creek Wildlife Refuge, a high and hilly region to search for the elusive condor. It was an absurdly windy day and the short story is - the Condors remained elusive.

We saw a few good birds though before making our way to the Californian coast; specifically the town of Ventura.

Few good photos were taken and I blame the wind!!

Saturday we had a cunning plan to take a boat to Santa Cruz Island to tick the endemic there - Island Scrubjay. However the trip to the island and the return trip stole the show!

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Some Desert birding in the Mojave...

Today's route
Straight from our Hotel 6, a brief Denny's breakfast and then to Jawbone Canyon for some early morning birding this morning. We were here for two main [birds] reasons; Bell Sparrow and Le Conte's Thrasher. Both birds, I'm happy to say were seen well and both, evidently have bred or are about to.

wash at Jawbone Canyon

juvenile Bell Sparrow - lifer!
Bell Sparrow adult - pic a bit dodgy.....

Le Conte's Thrasher nest site

Le Conte's Thrasher - lifer!
Le Conte's Thrasher - lifer!
nearby Lizard
Next we visited the nearby town of California City; specifically the central park there and saw quite a few migrant warblers; specifically Wilsons and Yellow rumped. Quite a few common species as well.
gum tree Turkey Vulture
After lunch we went for a nice afternoon stroll at a mini resort named Silver Saddles. This place, surrounded by the Mojave Desert is a little oasis and pretty bloody birdy. Saw quite a few nice things before calling an early day and driving to our digs in Bakersfield.

migrating Empid...
Ruby crowned Kinglet
resident Acorn Woodpecker
Belted Kingfisher
Migrant waders included Wilson's Snipe

and this Solitary Sandpiper

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Southern California Birding continues....

Today we left our hotel in Pasadena early in the morning to get up into the hills behind LA for some birding. The main area that we went to was around the Chilao Visitor Centre [see map above for location].
White headed Woodpecker - BOD

White headed Woodpeckers - Lovin' it!

Merriam's Chipmunk - Mammal Lifer!

Merriam's Chipmunk - Mammal Lifer!

Cassin's Finch

Cassin's Finch

The centre was supposed to have feeders to attract birds down however we found out upon arrival it is only open on weekends. Still birding around there was good although a little quiet. I got two lifers; White headed Woodpecker and Hermit Warbler. In addition we saw Dark eyed Juncos, Acorn Woodpeckers, Californian Scrubjays and Steller's Jays plus Olive sided Flycatcher, Mountain Chickadee, Oak Titmouse and Western Bluebirds.

Band tailed Pigeon

We drove up to near Buckhorn Flats Campground however it was still closed for the season. WE did walk a little around that area and heard Fox Sparrow, but saw Cassin's Finches, Pygmy Nuthatches, Black throated Warbler to name a few.

Returning to Chilao we went for a stroll around the campground area and got White breasted Nuthatch, Hairy Woodpecker, in addition to much of the species listed above.

Leaving the mountains we headed east and north before doing some birding at Apollo Park near Lancaster. Here there were some migrants coming through; Yellow-rumped, Wilsons, Townsends amd a Black throated Grey in addition to Pacific Slope Flycatcher, Western Wood Pewee and Ash throated Flycatcher. Waterbirds here included Black necked and Western Grebes plus Ruddy Duck, Cinnamon Teal and Mallard. Californian and Ring billed Gulls were present with Spotted Sandpiper plus Least Sandpiper. We also found a Barn Owl roosting thanks to some local information.
Yellow rumped Warbler

Western Wood Pewee

Eared Grebe [Black necked]
Black throated Grey Warbler
Another migrant - Western Kingbird
Californian Ground Squirrel

One more stop, a little far afield, gave us tremendous views of some 500 Tricoloured Blackbirds. This is basically a Californian Endemic, closely related to the abundant Red-winged Blackbird. Also on this marsh were Great Egrets and at least 5 Sora. Coot, Ruddy Duck and Cinnamon Teal were present also. A Western Tanager was also a nice find here.
Tricolored Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird - female
Tricolored Blackbird
Californian Quail

Finally stopped at Mojave after a good day and getting ready for some desert birding tomorrow!!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Back in LA

A 4-30am wake up call was needed to make an early flight back to LA. Got the rental and we were back into LA life and that means maximum time on too busy roads.

In between navigational adventures we visited a couple of good birding sites.

First a quick visit to Madrona Marsh. Here the water levels had reduced further as had the number of waterfowl.
Cassin's Kingbird

Then onto San Joaquin Marshes. A few good species here to add to my 2017 ABA list; Ruddy Duck for instance.

Clark's Grebe

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

headland habitat at Crystal Cove SP

Then onto the highlight of the day - Crystal Cove State Park! Here I got another lifer Californian Gnatcatcher, in addition to Wrentit, Californian Towhee and Californian Thrasher and California Gull.

Californian Gnatcatcher

Californian Gnatcatcher

California Thrasher

Monday, 24 April 2017

Texas - the Final Few Days

The group - surprised by a cold turn in the weather - Phil, Gary, Laurie, Ray, Ceri, Sheryll, Arthur, Sandra, Steve, Mike and Leonie

The final few days in Texas took us on a long drive from Winnie to the east of Houston to the Hill country to the north west of San Antonio.

Here, we made our base at Neal's Lodges located at Concan on the Frio River. FRom this base we explored two main areas in addition to the habitats around Neals'.

The first of these was Lost Maples State Natural Area and, secondly, South Llano River State Park. Both parks are managed by the Texas Government and both are gems!

Both of these parks were chosen primarily as they are home to two 'specials'. The first a Golden cheeked Warbler which is a Texan breeding endemic and the second, Black headed Vireo a limited area breeding migrant. Both parks were host to a wider range of species and both promised and delivered new birds and mammals for us!
An endangered Golden cheeked Warbler

From the Lost Maples website; The park showcases many Edwards Plateau plants and animals.

Lost Maples holds steep and rugged limestone canyons, springs, plateau grasslands, wooded slopes and clear streams. The fall foliage of our large, isolated stand of uncommon Uvalde bigtooth maples can be spectacular.

The foliage changes color the last two weeks of October through the first two weeks of November, de­pend­ing on the weather. The park is very popular during the fall and is often crowded.

Look year-round for rare species of birds, such as the green kingfisher. The en­dan­gered black-capped vireo and golden-cheeked warbler nest and feed in the park in spring and early summer.

Other wildlife includes gray fox, white-tailed deer, armadillo, raccoon, bobcat, rock squirrel and javelina.
Lost Maples view from the heights of the ridge

Spying on the Black capped Vireo

Red tailed Hawk on nest

Bewicks Wren

Another lifer - Scott's Oriole

Black chinned Hummingbird

Black chinned Hummingbirds crowded around the ranger station's feeders
Black chinned Hummngbird

A common yet handsome Chipping Sparrow in breeding plumage

Another Chipping Sparrow -  a sub adult moulting to adult breeding plumage?
male House Finch - another common feeder bird

Our visit to Lost Maples allowed us to see both of our targets and quite a few other species as well.

Llano showed us a great variety of birds and allowed pretty good photo opportunities due to their excellent range of blinds [hides] that had both feeders and water features. We saw Black headed Vireos as well. A soaring Bald Eagle here was a pleasant surprise as, according to the park's literature it had never been recorded in spring. It was our first [and only] record for our trip.
Yellow breasted Chat -  great views of a great bird!

At Llano we saw a great variety of seed eating species - usually around their excellent hides.
White crowned Sparrow

Lincoln Sparrow

Lark Sparrow
Black throated Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Clay Coloured Sparrow
Indigo Bunting
Painted Bunting
Black crested Titmouse

The park has two miles of river frontage, a large pecan bottom, and typical Hill Country areas. The 523-acre, wooded bottomland is home to white-tailed deer and the Rio Grande turkey. The bottomland represents one of the most substantial and oldest winter turkey roosts in the central portion of the state. Observation blinds are provided to offer visitors a glimpse of turkeys moving to and from the roost. Other animals include wood ducks, white-tailed deer, squirrels, jackrabbits, javelinas, foxes, beavers, bobcats, cottontails and armadillos. 
Summer Tanager
Nashville Warbler
Orange crowned Warbler

We saw porcupine at Llano - an excellent mammal indeed!
American Porcupine

American Porcupine

Spotlighting around Neals revealed a few mammals - Racoon, Striped Skunk, White-tailed Deer and Grey or maybe Kit Fox.

On our last night in Texas we enjoyed the awesome spectacle of the Frio Bat Flight - some 10 to 12 MILLION Mexican Free tail Bats leaving their roost and crowding the skies for an evening of foraging. The bats flew out in a continuous stream, ultimately creating murmurations in the sky in every direction. After an hour with the flood of bats still undiminished we left seeing a nine banded Armadillo on our walk to the vehicle.

On our last day we spent a few relaxing hours in San Antonio before finishing at the Airport. 

A great Texan tour!!